This might be a stupid question, but I’m an amateur, so forgive me: How do you pay your babysitters when they aren’t (a) teenagers from down the street or (b) professionals hired through a service but (c) friends?
In the last few months we’ve had lots of friends offer to watch our baby as soon as we’re ready to leave him alone, and although I wouldn’t say we’re ready ready to take that step yet, we’re going to do it anyway, two weeks from now, in the name of free tickets to the theeatah–provided that the kid can drink from a bottle by then, that is. (*Fingers crossed*; we’re working on it.)
Never having left my wee one in someone’s care for several hours, though, I’m not sure about the modern protocol for such things. Hiring a teenager or a career babysitter for the night is easy enough because it’s a standard business transaction, but what about leaving the kid with friends who have not only generously offered their homes and spare evenings and fresh reserves of patience, but have even gone so far as to make it sound like we would be doing them the favor instead of the other way around?
Several years ago I used to babysit for a coworker, and it never felt odd that she paid me to watch her two young sons because, firstly, she felt like an elder, a member of a different generation at a time I still considered myself a kid, and, secondly, because the payment was a meager sum, more of an honorarium than a fee for services rendered. It was a good deal for her because she paid me in peanuts, and it was a good deal for me because the peanuts weren’t the impetus but just a nice bonus for an afternoon playing mommy.
Now that I’m looking to “hire” my peers, though, it seems weird to make negotiating a price part of the arrangement. I definitely want to thank them appropriately, but I’m thinking more along the lines of a hostess gift, or trading favors, or even offering movie tickets as a way of making up for the night they spent wiping baby secretions from their sweaters instead of going out on the town themselves. (They also don’t yet realize that they’re getting the baby during the witching hour(s), at the time when he freaks out and melts down and needs to stock up on milk for the long night ahead by eating every hour and fussing in between. Surely that deserves reimbursement.)
So what do you do when you leave your kid(s) with your (childless*) friends? Negotiate a cash payment? Offer to trade favors? Bring a small gift? Simply say “thank you” and leave it at that because, after all, they were the ones who offered in the first place? (Suckers!)
Of course, there’s always the possibility that my baby still won’t drink from a bottle in two weeks, and instead of asking friends to take our kid for the evening we’ll be begging them to please take our theater tickets. Think we’d get any volunteers?
*I think the “childless” part is important because otherwise we could just trade babysitting, even steven.